The Darker Side of Val Doonican – Rob Walton

The Darker Side of Val Doonican

O’Rafferty gets into his motor car
and thinks, This is great, this
but then he spots McGinty and his goat
leaving the shebeen
and O’Rafferty thinks again,
Will you look at him
with his fucking goat!
And so he puts his foot
to the floor and mows them down
then comes back for more
in reverse gear.

Word is he’s now got his eye
on Delaney’s donkey.


Rob Walton is from Scunthorpe, and lives in Whitley Bay.  Poetry and short fiction for adults and children published by The Emma Press, Butcher’s Dog, Frances Lincoln, Bloomsbury, IRON Press, Red Squirrel, Northern Voices, Arachne and others.  He collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway text.   He sometimes tweets @anicelad

Featured Publication – How Time is in Fields by Jean Atkin

Our featured publication for October is How Time is in Fields by Jean Atkin, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

‘How Time is in Fields’ explores the way place contains all times, as well as traces of our recognisable predecessors.   There’s a lot of walking in this book, and an alertness to our shared space – with other lives, other creatures, other centuries. The round of the year is divided into the Old English months, reflecting shifts of folklore, season and state of mind.

‘How rife they are in the lost places’, writes Jean Atkin of nettles. How rife is Atkin’s sharpened imagination in this intelligent, alert and brilliantly-wrought collection, in which the lost and invisible places of human history and the natural world are brought to teeming life.’ David Morley

‘Jean Atkin reminds us we are all ‘anchored to the land’s grasp.’ Yet, this is not a collection motivated by tranquillity. ‘A wren like a dead leaf’ conjures up the mystical and transformative qualities of nature, where air smells of ‘dung,’ ‘dead stock’ and ‘gunshot.’’ Elisabeth Sennitt Clough



The snow years

For fifty years it snowed and no-one thought to ask why.
They were so used to it, they became like seals
and laid down fat. Like bears
they grew a pelt on forearms and faces.

Their fashions involved the intricate plaiting of long hair
to insulate necks and ears.
The regular creak of snow was a man walking.

The flump of snow falling from porches
was a woman humming inside a drift.
In their stories, trees leafed.


The not seen sea

Under cliff, under white chalk, Under Hooken
we walk down the throat of the harts tongue
and talk. Our boots are glossed with clever ivy.

Overgrown, overhead and soft under old man’s beard,
bosomy June leans down on us, up close
to cyclical drift, centimetre shift of earth.

While, sunk in its cage of feathers, a blackbird rots,
deflates into the flint step down to the beach.
Shingle rumbles in our ears. It hisses, passes, as we

wind the path between the cliffs, and only now
and then we catch the hill-high lurch of chalk in mist.
Keen in the nose, the salt and fret of sea.

All the while we twist a flint descent by rungs
of ivy root, and all the while a thrush repeats
repeats its song to coil to coil inside our ears.

And another blackbird sings, so blackbird answers it
in audible waves. By our feet a chasm of ash and fog.
Low in our bones, not visible, churrs the sea.


Nettle lexicon

……………………….1 nettle of the edgelands
So, the nettle dare – will you grip that hairy leaf?
…….Stand still and rigid for this ordeal
………….while they wait in a circle and watch your face?

……………………..2 nettle of the dens
Sharp flare of weals rising white on your skin,
…….a dapple of pain you soothe to a green smear
………….of dockens. Scrub-leaf. In dock, out nettle.

……………………..3 nettle of the beds
Older, gloved and kneeling, you hang and draw the soil
…….for them, their creamy guts, the hoary coil and pack of them.
…………..Them snapping, whipping back to test you.

……………….……4 nettle of the gone
O how the nettles do grow behind us, markers
……for our wiped-out villages, abandoned farms.
…………How rife they are in the lost places.


Jean Atkin is a poet whose work maps memory, work, loss, and place. Her poetry has been commissioned for Radio 4, and featured on ‘Best Scottish Poems’ by the Scottish Poetry Library. Last year’s National Poetry Day saw her become the first ever Troubadour of the Hills, thanks to Ledbury Poetry Festival, and she featured in March 2019 on BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings programme, ‘Walking a Poem on the Malverns’, presented by Clare Balding. Jean has also been working with Shropshire-based eclectic folk band Whalebone, writing a group of poems to explore the new lore of the county – the stories just within – and just out of – living memory.   Whalebone have composed music to weave through the poems. This Arts Council supported performance project is ‘Understories’. Jean works as a poet in education and community projects.  She is currently poet in residence for Hargate Primary School and is also working on a long-term project, Creative Conversations, funded by Arts Council Celebrating Age.  She creates lively, inventive workshops for schools, writers’ groups, hospitals, care homes, libraries and museums. She tutors for Arvon’s school groups and is an occasional tutor for The Poetry School. She often works in collaboration to develop projects and residencies with different organisations and partners.

How Time is in Fields is available from the Indigo Dreams Publishing website.

Shifts – Tamsin Cottis


I am almost Grandma, though myself
at twelve seems close enough to touch –
awkward body at the threshold;
still fond of dolls, unnerved
by the blood that speaks
of a real live baby,
now possible inside me.

My daughter is thirty now.
Startled, I hold her also in my mind
at two – our beauty. Picture her playing
at the sink; yellow sundress, fair curls
stuck with sweat to her neck,
thin cotton straps
across her perfect back.

I hope when the baby comes
I’ll be steady, kind, able to help.
I want a cot, ready in the spare room;
Bear Hunt, dusted, back on the shelf.
I hope for the chance
to bring my best love another time;
bring it unconfined.


Tamsin Cottis is a London-based child psychotherapist and writer. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck and her poetry and short fiction has been published by, among others, Mslexia, Rattle Tales, Verve Poetry Press and The Morning Star.

She is on Twitter @tamsin cottis




Washing Machine – Seth Crook

Washing Machine

You’d love me if I were a better man,
wiser, wittier, not so short of cash,
keener to live a life with much more dash
or slightly taller with a proper van.

Like socks, we’re fading in the weekly wash.
Our life’s a long and itchy rash,
and so much less than if we had a passion;
nights thinly slicing love, thick slicing ham.


Seth Crook is transitioning into a seal. His poems have most recently appeared in Southlight, Northwords Now, Stravaig, Firth, The Interpreter’s House, The Nitrogen House,  And south of the border in The Projectionist’s Playground, Rialto, Magma, Envoi, Prole.

What the shaman’s child asked the anthropologist – Rebecca Gethin

What the shaman’s child asked the anthropologist

In your country do you have death?
Or is it only here
that the ones we belong with
become sick-spirited, then lifeless
and once they are planted
are never seen again
but talk to us through my father’s mouth?
We know who is speaking
because their voice sounds the same
the words, the tone,
telling us what to do.
Do you have death like ours –
where you can talk to them
and hear them but never feel their warmth.
Do you have need of healing plants
and are there python and leopard spirits
along the paths. You don’t seem to see them,
do you?


Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications and is a Hawthornden Fellow. Messages was a winner in the Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition.  Vanishings is forthcoming from Palewell Press and she will run a short course for Poetry School.

Sell the Petticoat and Go to Sea – Maggie Mackay

Sell the Petticoat and Go to Sea

It’s a gey wondrous place and I’m lucky for tae see it and live.
(George Bissett, great-great-grandfather and ship’s carpenter, 1866)

Bleachfields spread in Clydeside sun.
Whitening sheets blink
ballooning like tides, like sails,
as Jacobina’s man clips his fortune
to a passage out of Greenock,
destined for the far east of the globe.
George is ship’s carpenter, adventurer
to places she’d never know, to sunken reefs,
uncharted water, monsoon sky, coral rock.

Here sits her little life on earth,
a China junk on the window sill,
bairns to raise and poems to pencil.
She writes of herself,
not the cutter or stitcher of silk,
but as the nation’s spy,
flying a hot air balloon across the Continent.


Maggie Mackay’s work appears in the award-winning #MeToo anthology while other poems have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem and the Pushcart Prize and commended in the Mothers’ Milk Writing Prize. Her debut pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ is published by Picaroon Poetry.

Calling out the fathoms – Sarah Mnatzaganian

Calling out the fathoms

Robin brings a finished cello back
down to the kitchen for company.
He tilts the shallow maple shell
into the calliper’s deep green jaws

and sings out each measurement
like a seaman swinging his lead line
and calling out the fathoms. I scribe
thicknesses onto a cello-shaped grid

watching my hand catch and turn
the satisfaction in his voice into bold
italics, keen as a fleet of sailing boats
on the starboard tack in high wind.


Sarah Mnatzaganian is an Anglo-Armenian poet.  Shortlisted for the Poetry Business pamphlet competition 2016/17, her poems have been published in Atrium, The North, Fenland Reed, London Grip, Magma, Poems in the Waiting Room, As Above, So Below, Write to be Counted and #MeToo a women’s anthology edited by Deborah Alma. She studies with Peter and Ann Sansom and Moniza Alvi.




The Phoney War – Thomas McColl

The Phoney War

Our imaginations at war –
with umbrellas for rifles,
our enemy invisible –
we defended the sofa,
had it pulled out from the wall.

Inside this narrow tunnel –
with seat cushions overhead –
we hid.

With each attack,
we watched each other’s backs.
You saw the Germans
in your mind I could not see,
and I saw mine;
We shot them all too easily.

With the air-strikes, though,
we met our match.
Shells – like steel fists – struck,
and the seat cushions,
punched up into the air,
fell about us.

So, we rose and came out fighting –
shot down five fighters
and three bombers
with two umbrellas,
then finished off the conflict
in close hand-to-hand combat.

By the end,
there were a thousand German casualties
and, without even a scratch between them,
two tired Tommies,
smoking pencils, feeling tough.

And now the war was finished,
and with both of us famished,
we ran from the living room
into the kitchen,
calling for Gran to serve us up our tea,
and found her quietly sobbing at the stove.


Thomas McColl has had poems published in Envoi, Iota, Prole, The Fat Damsel and Ink, Sweat and Tears. His first full collection, Being With Me Will Help You Learn, is published by Listen Softly London Press.

Shoe Laces – Clifton Redmond

Shoe Laces

Your first pair without the Velcro straps
were a thick brown leather brogue for school.
Your mother wept as I laced them up,

threading each eye and pulling the slack.
You thought the laces were half-excavated
worms, stuck between worlds.

When you stood up, tried to walk
you tripped and fell, cried when I sang
the song about the sad bunny

with abnormal ears. I watched you
unraveling, the knots of yourself
grappling the loose loops, crossing over.


Clifton Redmond is a student at Carlow College St. Patrick’s. His work has appeared in various online and print journals and has been placed in various competitions and awards. He is also a member of the Carlow Writers’ Co-operative.



Anne Neville’s Unknown Heirs – Edwin Stockdale

Anne Neville’s Unknown Heirs
Penrith Castle
December 1479

You rush inside
your apartments, shooing
your ladies away.
You fear the inside,
bones gnawing,
knowing, gripe.
Your body and blood
feel wrong.

You are drawn to large
windows, but they never
let in enough light.
You touch Cumberland
sandstone: red, viscous.
Your womb shreds.


Edwin Stockdale has published two poetry pamphlets with Red Squirrel Press: Aventurine (September 2014) and The Glower of the Sun (January 2019).  Currently, he is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.